Israel reduces diplomatic presence in Turkey over protests

Israel reduces diplomatic presence in Turkey over protests

Israel reduces diplomatic presence in Turkey over protests

The protest in Istanbul started at 01:30 a.m. in front of the Israeli consulate in the Levent neighborhood. DHA Photo

Israel said it was reducing its diplomatic delegation in Turkey to the “minimum required” on July 18, after violent pro-Palestinian protests that it linked to the Turkish government’s fiery public criticism of Israel.  

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Turkish police had failed to provide adequate protection for Israel’s embassy in Ankara and its consulate in Istanbul, in what it described as a “blatant breach of diplomatic regulations.” It added that envoys’ families were now being repatriated.

The embassy has not contacted the Turkish Foreign Ministry about the “inadequate security,” but Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has issued a statement, an embassy spokesman told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Israel’s chargé d’affaires in Ankara, Yosef Levy Sfari, and its consul general in Istanbul, Moshe Kamhi, will continue their duties in Turkey.

Riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons (TOMA) on July 17 to disperse demonstrators who pelted the Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul with stones, in protest at Israel’s ground offensive in Gaza, as several Turkish deputies rallied in support of Gazans.

Protests continued throughout July 18, while police cordoned off the road in front of the Israeli embassy residence in Ankara. A group of around 200 demonstrators, including members of public sector trade union Memur-Sen, rights groups Özgür-Der and Mazlum-DER, and charity organization İHH, performed Friday prayers in front of the house and made a statement demanding that the Israeli mission leaves Turkey.

The protest in Istanbul had started at 01:30 a.m. in front of the Israeli consulate in the Levent neighborhood. Demonstrators waved Turkish and Palestinian flags, chanting slogans such as “Hail to the resistance from Istanbul to Gaza,” “Murderer Israel, get out of Palestine” and “Strike, strike Hamas; strike against Israel.”

A group among the protesters climbed the wall of the consulate at 02:30 a.m. and smashed the building’s windows with sticks and stones. Police intervened after they attempted to break the door to enter the consulate. The group was dispersed with TOMAs and tear gas, before briefly pelting the police with stones. A second attack on the consulate was again avoided by police intervention.

Israeli Ambassador’s residence pelted with stones

Meanwhile in Ankara, protesters threw rocks at the Israeli ambassador’s residence, with windows shattered and a Palestinian flag hung on the house’s wall. The police kept the protesters from entering the garden, but did not attempt to stop them from pelting the residence with stones.

Several members of Parliament joined the protest in Ankara, and ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) deputy Murat Yıldırım addressed the protesting crowd.

“The occupying Israel has made a bloodbath of Palestine by bombing them for the past 15 days. Now we are here as the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. Parliament is in recess now and will remain so tomorrow,” Yıldırım said.

AKP Parliamentary Group Head Ahmet Aydın described Israel’s Gaza operation as “state terror.”

‘Rogue state’

Meanwhile, main opposition Republican People Party’s (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal described Israel as “a rogue state.” After all parties at Parliament agreed to officially condemn the Tel Aviv administration over of the Gaza operation, Tanal said they stand with “the Palestinian people who are being oppressed.”

“A state that goes rogue should be given a lesson,” Tanal added,.

Other early morning protests elsewhere in Turkey were less eventful. Protesters chanted anti-Israeli slogans in front of the U.S. embassy in the southern city of Adana at 03:00 a.m., while in the western city of İzmir, some 25 people gathered at Konak Square at 03:00 a.m. to pray for Gazans, after which they dispersed without incident.